While I have dated and slept with both men and women in my life, I happen to be married to a man. This fact automatically means that I “pass” in most situations, although I still identify as bisexual. People see my opposite-sex partner and assume I am straight.
I end up in a very strange version of the closet. If I were straight, it wouldn’t be an issue. If I were a lesbian, it would eventually come up in conversation or at events. Instead, I find myself in a limbo born of circumstance. Because the person I ended up with is male, I experience the privilege that comes with being heterosexual in our culture. I also find myself in situations with “other” straight people who feel free to say bigoted things in my presence. After all, we’re just talking about those people.
Unfortunately, these conversations are frequently with family members. Both my husband and I have very religious people in our families who have strong anti-queer opinions. These are caring, loving people, who would normally never want to say something hurtful to me. By keeping my sexual identity private, I am putting both of us in a very awkward position.
Sometimes, the urge to out myself becomes almost spiteful. When they say narrow-minded things, I want to snap, “You have no idea who you are talking to! For your information, I am queer. Think about what you just said. Do you really believe that about me?” I just want to shock them out of their comfortable assumptions — especially those on my husband’s side of the family, with whom I have no personal history of connection. At least I have loving memories of my own grandmother. At the last reunion on his side, I was physically biting my tongue to keep quiet during a particular offensive “prayer” — not my family, not my place.
Or is it? Am I obliged to come out as bi? I am lucky that the person I married is socially acceptable, so am I obligated to take that privilege and try to do some good with it? Would knowing that their family member is queer make any difference at all to these people? I’m afraid the answer is no. I’m afraid I would damage those relationships, perhaps irrevocably … and perhaps unnecessarily. After all, I am “safe.” I found a man. I could live the rest of my life with my mouth shut and not have my choices directly limited.
But that point of view is getting harder and harder to stand behind. Things came to a head last week when the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal across the country. I felt this news on a very personal level. Maybe now is the time. Maybe if they personally knew one of those people, our family members would think twice before posting. There are a lot of people who risked everything to make this happen. Maybe I can do my small part and risk this…